Golf Rules

 

 
Rules in Brief Definitions

Below is a copy of the USGA Rules in Brief, and the Definition section of the rules.
Due to copyright reasons, we cannot display the full rules, but you can view them at the USGA web site. (USGA copyright does not allow you to download and reassemble them.)


Rules in Brief

A summary of some principal Rules of Golf. In case of doubt, refer to the complete Rules published by the United States Golf Association and the Royal and Ancient Golf Club of St. Andrews.
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Match and Stroke Play
Put an identification mark on your ball. If you canít identify it as yours, itís lost. (27) If your ball becomes unfit for play, you may replace it, without penalty, on the hole where it becomes unfit or between holes. (5-3)

 Count your clubs. No more than 14. (4-4)

 Donít use an artificial device or unusual equipment for gauging or measuring distance or conditions, or to give artificial aid in gripping. (14-3) 

Donít ask for advice from anyone except your partner or your caddie. Donít give advice to anyone except your partner. (8-1) 

During a hole you may practice swing but not play a practice stroke. Between holes you may practice chip and putt on or near the putting green of the hole last played or the tee of the next hole but not from a hazard. (7-2) 

Play without delay. (6-7)

 Order of Play
On the first tee the honor is determined by the order of the draw or, in the absence of a draw, by lot. (10) 

In match play, the ball farther from the hole is played first. The winner of a hole tees off first on the next hole. If a player plays out of turn anywhere on the course, his opponent may require him to replay. (10-1) 

In stroke play, the ball farthest from the hole is played first. The competitor with the lowest score on a hole tees off first on the next hole. There is generally no penalty for playing out of turn. (10-2) 

In four-ball competitions, partners may play in the order they consider best. (30-3c and 31-5)

 Teeing Ground
Tee off within two club-lengths behind the front edges of the tee-markers. 

If you tee off outside this area, in match play there is no penalty but your opponent may require you to replay the stroke. In stroke play you incur a two-stroke penalty and must then play from within the proper area. (11-4)

 Playing the Ball
Play the ball as it lies. (13-1) Donít touch it unless a Rule permits. (18-2) 

Play the course as you find it. Donít improve your lie, the area of your intended swing or your line of play or a reasonable extension of that line beyond the hole by moving, bending or breaking anything fixed or growing except in fairly taking your stance or making your swing. Donít press anything down. (13-2) Donít build a stance. (13-3) 

If your ball is in a bunker or a water hazard, donít touch the ground in the bunker or the ground or water in the water hazard before the downswing. (13-4) 

Strike at the ball with the clubhead. Donít push or scrape it. (14-1) If your club strikes the ball more than once in a single stroke, count the stroke and add a penalty stroke. (14-4) 

If you play a wrong ball (except in a hazard), in match play you lose the hole. In stroke play you incur a two-stroke penalty and must then play the correct ball. (15) 

Putting Green
Donít touch the line of your putt unless a Rule permits. (16-la) You may repair ball marks and old hole plugs on the line but not spike marks. (16-lc) 
You may lift, and if desired clean, your ball on the putting green. Always replace it on the exact spot. (16-lb) 

Donít test the surface by scraping it or rolling a ball. (16-ld) 

If your ball played from the putting green strikes the flagstick, in match play you lose the hole or in stroke play you incur a two-stroke penalty. (17-3) 

Always hole out unless in match play your opponent concedes your putt. (2-4, 3-2, 16-2)

 Ball At Rest Moved
If your ball is moved by you, your partner or your caddie except as permitted by the Rules or if it moves after you have addressed it, add a penalty stroke and replace your ball. (18-2) 

If your ball is moved by someone else or another ball, replace it without penalty to you. (18)

 Ball In Motion Deflected or Stopped
If your ball in motion is deflected or stopped by you, your partner or your caddie, in match play you lose the hole. In stroke play you incur a two-stroke penalty and the ball is played as it lies. (19-2) 

If your ball in motion is deflected or stopped by someone else, play your ball as it lies without penalty, except (a) in match play, if an opponent or his caddie deflects your ball, you may play it as it lies or replay it or (b) in stroke play, if your ball is deflected after a stroke on the putting green, you must replay. (19) 

If your ball in motion is deflected or stopped by another ball in play and at rest, play your ball as it lies. In match play, you incur no penalty. In stroke play, you incur a two-stroke penalty if your ball and the other ball were on the green before your stroke. (19-5)

 Lifting, Dropping and Placing
If a ball to be lifted is to be replaced, its position must be marked. (20-1) 

When dropping, stand erect, hold the ball at shoulder height and armís length and drop it. A ball to be dropped in a hazard must be dropped, and stay, in the hazard. (20-2a) 

If a dropped ball strikes the player or his partner, caddie or equipment, it must be re-dropped without penalty. (20-2a) 

A dropped ball must be re-dropped if it rolls into a hazard, out of a hazard, onto a putting green, out of bounds or to a position where there is interference by the condition from which relief is taken (in case of immovable obstructions, abnormal ground conditions, embedded ball and wrong putting green) or comes to rest more than two club-lengths from where it first struck a part of the course or nearer the hole than its original position or other reference point under Rule 25-1c or 26-1. If the ball when re-dropped rolls into any position listed above, place it where it first struck a part of the course when re-dropped. (20-2c) 

If the original lie of a ball to be replaced has been altered, place it in the nearest similar lie within one club-length not nearer the hole, except in a bunker recreate the original lie and place it in that lie. (20-3b)

 Interference
You may lift your ball if it might assist any other player. (22) 

You may have any other ball lifted if it might interfere with your play or assist any other player. (22)

 Loose impediments
Loose impediments are natural objects (such as stones and leaves) not fixed or growing, not solidly embedded and not adhering to the ball. (23) 

You may move them unless the loose impediment and your ball lie in or touch the same hazard. (23-1) 

If you move a loose impediment within one club-length of your ball and your ball moves, the ball must be replaced and (unless your ball was on the putting green) you incur a penalty stroke. (18-2c) 

Obstructions
Obstructions are artificial (i.e., man-made) objects. Objects defining out of bounds such as fence posts or stakes and immovable artificial objects out of bounds are not obstructions. (24) 

Movable obstructions anywhere may be moved. If your ball moves, replace it without penalty. (24-1) 

If an immovable obstruction interferes with your stance or swing, you may, except when your ball is in a water hazard, drop within one club-length of the nearest point of relief not nearer the hole. In a bunker drop in the bunker, and on the putting green place in the nearest position which affords relief, not nearer the hole. There is no relief for intervention on your line of play unless your ball and the obstruction are on the green. (24-2) 

If your ball is lost in an immovable obstruction (except in a water hazard) take the same relief based on the point where the ball entered the obstruction. (24-2c)

 Abnormal Ground Conditions
If your ball is in casual water, ground under repair or, except in a water hazard, a hole, cast or runway made by a burrowing animal, you may drop without penalty within one club-length of the nearest point of relief not nearer the hole, except (a) in a hazard drop in the nearest position in the hazard which affords maximum relief and is not nearer the hole or, under penalty of one stroke, drop any distance behind the hazard or (b) on the putting green place in the nearest position which affords maximum relief and is not nearer the hole. (25-lb) 

If your ball is lost in such condition (except in a burrowing animal hole in a water hazard), take the same relief based on the point where the ball last crossed the margin of the area. (25-lc)

 Water Hazards
You may play the ball as it lies or, under penalty of one stroke, drop any distance behind the water hazard keeping the point at which the original ball last crossed the margin of the water hazard directly between the hole and the spot on which the ball is dropped, or replay the shot. (26-1a,b). 

In a lateral water hazard, you may also, under penalty of one stroke, drop within two club-lengths of (a) the point where the ball last crossed the hazard margin or (b) a point on the opposite hazard margin equidistant from the hole. (26-1c)

 Lost or Out of Bounds
If your ball may be lost outside a water hazard or out of bounds, you may play a provisional ball before you go forward to look for the original, provided you announce your intention to do so. If your original ball turns out to be in a water hazard or is found outside a water hazard, you must abandon the provisional ball. (27-2) 

If your ball is lost outside a water hazard or is out of bounds, add one penalty stroke and play the provisional or, if you did not play a provisional, replay the shot. (27-1)

 Unplayable
If you believe your ball is unplayable outside a water hazard you may add one penalty stroke and (a) drop within two club-lengths of where the ball lies not nearer the hole, (b) drop any distance behind the point where the ball lay (keeping that point directly between the hole and the spot on which the ball is dropped), or (c) replay the shot. If your ball is in a bunker you may proceed under (a), (b) or (c), however, if you elect to proceed under (a) or (b), you must drop in the bunker. (28) 

Etiquette
Donít move, talk or stand close to or directly behind a player making a stroke. 
Donít play until the group in front is out of the way. 
Always play without delay. Leave the putting green as soon as all players in your group have holed out. 
Invite faster groups to play through. 
Replace divots. Smooth out footprints in bunkers. 
Donít step on the line of anotherís putt. 
Donít drop clubs on a putting green. 
Replace the flagstick carefully in an upright position. 
Leave the course in the condition in which youíd like to find it. 

 
 
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DEFINITIONS
Addressing the Ball
A player has "addressed the ball" when he has taken his stance and has also grounded his club, except that in a hazard a player has addressed the ball when he has taken his stance.

 Advice
"Advice" is any counsel or suggestion which could influence a player in determining his play, the choice of a club or the method of making a stroke.

 Ball Deemed to Move
See "Move or Moved."

Ball Holed
See "Holed."

Ball Lost
See "Lost Ball."

Ball in Play
A ball is "in play as soon as the player has made a stroke on the teeing ground. It remains in play until holed out, except when it is , lost, out of bounds or , or aliftednother ball has been substituted whether or not such substitution is permitted; a ball so substituted becomes the ball in play.

 Bunker
A "bunker" is a hazard consisting of a prepared area of ground often a hollow, from which turf or soil has been removed and replaced with sand or the like. Grass-covered ground bordering or within a bunker is not part of the bunker. The margin of a bunker extends vertically downwards, but not upwards. A ball is in a bunker when it lies in or any part of it touches the bunker.

 Caddie
A "caddie" is one who carries or handles a player's clubs during play and otherwise assists him accordance with the Rules.

When one caddie is employed by more than one player, he is always deemed to be the caddie of the player whose ball is involved, and equipment carried by him is deemed to be that player's equipment, except when the caddie acts upon specific directions of another player, in which case he is considered to be that other player's caddie.

Casual Water
"Casual water" is any temporary accumulation of water on the course which is visible before or after the player takes his stance and is not in a water hazard. Snow and natural ice, other than frost, are either casual water or loose impediments, at the option of the player. Manufactured ice is an obstruction. Dew and frost are not casual water. A ball is in casual water when it lies in or any part of it touches the casual water.

 Committee
The "Committee" is the committee in charge of the competition or, if the matter does not arise in a competition, the committee in charge of the course.

 Competitor
A "competitor" is a player in a stroke competition. A "fellow competitor" is any person with whom the competitor plays. Neither is partner of the other.

 In stroke play foursome and four-ball competitions, where the context so admits, the word "competitor" or "fellow-competitor" includes his partner.

 Course
The "course" is the whole area within which play is permitted (see Rule 33-2).

 Equipment
"Equipment" is anything used, worn or carried by or for the player except any ball he has played at the hole being played and any small object, such as a coin or a tee, when used to mark the position of a ball or the extent of an area in which a ball is to be dropped. Equipment includes a golf cart, whether or not motorized. If such a cart is shared by two or more players, the cart and everything in it are deemed to be the equipment of the player whose ball is involved except that, when the cart is being moved by one of the players sharing it, the cart and everything in it are deemed to be that player's equipment.

 Note: A ball played at the hole being played is equipment when it has been lifted and not put back into play.

 Fellow-Competitor
See "Competitor."

 Flagstick
The "flagstick" is a movable straight indicator, with or without bunting or other material attached, centered in the hole to show its position. It shall be circular in cross-section.

Forecaddie
A "forecaddie" is one who is employed by the Committee to indicate to players the position of balls during play. He is an outside agency.

 Ground Under Repair
"Ground under repair" is any portion of the course so marked by order of the Committee or so declared by its authorized representative. It includes material piled for removal and a hole made by a greenkeeper, even if not so marked. Stakes and lines defining ground under repair are in such ground. Stakes defining ground under repair are obstructions. The margin of ground under repair extends vertically downwards, but not upwards. A ball is in ground under repair when it lies in or any part of it touches the ground under repair.

 Note 1: Grass cuttings and other material left on the course which have been abandoned and are not intended to be removed are not ground under repair unless so marked.

 Note 2: The Committee may make a Local Rule prohibiting play from ground under repair or an environmentally-sensitive area which has been defined as ground under repair.

 Hazards
A "hazard" is any bunker or water hazard.

 Hole
The "hole" shall be 4 1/4 inches (108mm) in diameter and at least 4 inches (100mm) deep. If a lining is used, it shall be sunk at least 1 inch (25 mm) below the putting green surface unless the nature of the soil makes it impracticable to do so; its outer diameter shall not exceed 4 1/4 inches (108mm).

 Holed
A ball is "holed" when it is at rest within the circumference of the hole and all of it is below the level of the lip of the hole.

Honor
The side entitled to play first from the teeing ground is said to have the "honor."

 Lateral Water Hazard
A "lateral water hazard" is a water hazard or that part of a water hazard so situated that it is not possible or is deemed by the Committee to be impracticable to drop a ball behind the water hazard in accordance with Rule 26-1b.

 That part of a water hazard to be played as a lateral water hazard should be distinctively marked. A ball is in a lateral water hazard when it lies in or any part of it touches the lateral water hazard.

 Note 1: Later water hazards should be defined by red stakes or lines.

 Note 2: The Committee may make a Local Rule prohibiting play from an environmentally-sensitive area which has been defined as a lateral water hazard.

 Line of Play
The "line of play" is the direction which the player wishes his ball to take after a stroke, plus a reasonable distance on either side of the intended direction. The line of play extends vertically upwards from the ground, but does not extend beyond the hole.

 Line of Putt
The "line of putt" is the line which the player wishes his ball to take after a stroke on the putting green. Except with respect to Rule 16-1e, the line of putt includes a reasonable distance on either side of the intended line. The line of putt does not extend beyond the hole.

 Loose Impediments
"Loose impediments" are natural objects such as stones, leaves, twigs, branches and the like, dung, worms and insects and casts or heaps made by them, provided they are not fixed or growing, are not solidly embedded and do not adhere to the ball.

Sand and loose soil are loose impediments on the putting green, but not elsewhere.

Snow and natural ice, other than frost, are either casual water or loose impediments, at the option of the player. Manufactured ice is an obstruction.

 Dew and frost are not loose impediments.

Lost Ball
A ball is "lost" if:

a. It is not found or identified as his by the player within five minutes after the player's side or his or their caddies have begun to search for it; or

 b. The player has put another ball into play under the Rules, even though he may not have searched for the original ball; or

 c. The player has played any stroke with a provision ball from the place where the original ball is likely to be or from a point nearer the hole than that place, whereupon the provisional ball become the ball in play.

 Time spent in playing a wrong ball is not counted in the five-minute period allowed for search.

Marker
A "marker" is one who is appointed by the Committee to record a competitor's score in stroke play. He may be a fellow-competitor. He is not a referee.

 Matches
See "Sides and Matches."

Move or Moved
A ball is deemed to have "moved if it leaves its position and comes to rest in any other place.

 Observer
An "observer" is one who is appointed by the Committee to assist a referee to decide questions of fact and to report to him any breach of a Rule. An observer should not attend the flagstick, stand or mark the position of the hole, or lift the ball or mark its position.

Obstructions
An "obstruction" is anything artificial, including the artificial surfaces and sides of roads and paths and manufactured ice, except:

a. Objects defining out of bounds, such as walls, fences, stakes and railings;

b. Any part of an immovable artificial object which is out of bounds; and

 c. Any construction declared by the Committee to be an integral part of the course.

Out of Bounds
"Out of bounds" is ground on which play is prohibited.

 When out of bounds is defined by reference to stakes or a fence or as being beyond stakes or a fence, the out of bounds line is determined by the nearest inside points of the stakes or fence posts at ground level excluding angled support.

When out of bounds is defined by a line on the ground, the line itself is out of bounds.

The out of bounds line extends vertically upwards and downwards.

A ball is out of bounds when all of it lies out of bounds.

A player may stand out of bounds to play a ball lying within bounds.

 Outside Agency
An "outside agency " is any agency not part of the match or, in stroke play, not part of the competitor's side, and includes a referee, a marker, an observer and a forecaddie. nether wind nor water is an outside agency.

Partner
A "partner" is a player associated with another player on the same side. In a threesome, foursome, best-ball or four-ball match, where the context so admits, the word "player" includes his partner or partners.

Penalty Stroke
A "penalty stroke" is one added to the score of a player or side under certain Rules. In a threesome or foursome, penalty strokes do not affect the order of play.

Provisional Ball
A "provisional ball" is a ball played under Rule 27-2 for a ball which may be lost outside a water hazard or may be out of bounds.

 Putting Green
The "putting green" is all ground of the hole being played which is specially prepared for putting or otherwise defined as such by the Committee. A ball is on the putting green when any part of it touches the putting green.

Referee
A "referee" is one who is appointed by the Committee to accompany players to decide questions of fact and apply the Rules. He shall act on any breach of a Rule which he observes or is reported to him.

A referee should not attend the flagstick, stand at or mark the position of the hole, or lift the ball or mark its position.

Rub of the Green
A "rub of the green" occurs when a ball in motion is accidentally deflected or stopped by any outside agency (see Rule 19-1).

Rule
The term "Rule" includes Local Rules made by the Committee under Rule 33-8a.

Sides and Matches
Side: A player, or two or more players who are partners.

 Single: A match in which one plays against another.

Threesome: A match in which one plays against two, and each side plays one ball.

Foursome: A match in which two play against two, and each side plays one ball.

Three-Ball: A match play competition in which three play against one another, each playing his own ball. Each player is playing two distinct matches.

 Best-Ball: A match in which one plays against the better ball of two or the best ball of three players.

 Four-Ball: A match in which two play their better ball against the better ball of two other players.

 Stance
Taking the "stance" consists in a player placing his feet in position for and preparatory to making a stroke.

 Stipulated Round
The "stipulated round" consists of playing the holes of the course in their correct sequence unless otherwise authorized by the Committee. The number of holes in a stipulated round is 18 unless, a small number is authorized by the Committee. As to extension of stipulated round in match play, see Rule 2-3.

 Stroke
A "stroke" is the forward movement of the club made with the intention of fairly striking at and moving the ball, but if a player checks his downswing voluntarily before the clubhead reaches the ball he is deemed not to have made a stroke.

 Teeing Ground
The "teeing ground" is the start place for the hole to be played. It is a rectangular area two club-lengths in depth, the front and the sides of which are defined by the outside limits of two tee-markers. A ball is outside the teeing ground when all of it lies outside the teeing ground.

 Through the Green
"Through the green" is the whole area of the course except:

 a. The teeing ground and putting green of the hole being played; and

 b. All hazards on the course.

 Water Hazard
A "water hazard" is any sea, lake pond, river, ditch, surface drainage ditch or other open water course (whether or not containing water) and anything of a similar nature.

 All ground or water within the margin of a water hazard is part of the water hazard. The margin of a water hazard extends vertically upwards and downwards. Stakes and the lines defining the margins of water hazards are in the hazards. Such stakes are obstructions. A ball is in a water hazard when it lies in or any part of it touches the water hazard.

 Note 1: Water hazards (other than lateral water hazards) should be defined by yellow stakes or lines.

 Note 2: The Committee may make a Local Rule prohibiting play from an environmentally-sensitive area which has been defined as a water hazard.

 Wrong Ball
A "wrong ball" is any ball other than the player's: a. Ball in play, b. Provisional ball, or c. Second ball played under Rule 3-3 or Rule 20-7b in stroke play.

 Note: Ball in play includes a ball substituted for the ball in play whether or not such substitution is permitted.
 
 
 
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